'Let's look at cults as a dangerous thing. One of the features of cults is that they have a leader that others follow in a mindless sort of way...these cult leaders have usually questionable credentials...sometimes they give themselves the title of doctor, or reverend, when they don't have that in truth. They usually do not want to be challenged in any way at all...those who challenge them are outlawed...they require unconditional trust - trust me because I'm the leader, don't challenge me, you dare not challenge me because you're challenging the authority of God. They tend to get wealthy at the expense of their fellows...tend to live in mansions....drive large cars...live in palaces - that applies to orthodox mainstream as well as some of these more outrageous cults. They claim to be in unique contact with God...to have communication with God....don't need the Word of God so much because they're in direct thought contact with God or they've got some special revelation which they've been given. Of course many people claim that. They tend to grant themselves liberties with their followers....make grandiose claims (quoted 'Heavens Gate' cult)....demand financial contributions...claim evil forces tend to subvert them so that anyone dares to challenge them the devil has got hold of that person....and that a big event is just around the corner. Those are some of the ways to recognise cult leaders.'
By using descriptions which apply to many cult leaders Palmer attempted to gain sympathy for his group although it clearly fits the general description of a cult which we typed on our tract and applied to ALL! It is not honest to even infer that we made these claims in order to deflect the truth and gain the sympathy vote. We look forward to the CDs actually rebuffing the claims we did make that Thomas and Roberts did imply a "big event" around the corner - the return of Christ (see tract enclosed) - and we have already seen that the claims made for Thomas include special Scriptural interpretation & 'light' not previously available! Palmer went into detailed description of his group:
'Christadelphians do not have an organisation, as such....I was talking to a pastor, probably of the Baptist church....who said 'your organisation will have told you this'....I said, 'No,' we don't have an organisation....he was quite taken aback....he expected us, as a 'cult,' to be controlled. I can tell you now the Cardiff Christadelphians have nothing more than a group of members who are elected....as serving brethren we call them....for a limited period of time....and one, Ken here in the front row, is the Secretary and that's as far as we go with an organisation...we've got a catering committee that makes large, splendid meals, on special occasions. And we have one or two people take responsibility for organising venues like this and another who puts the ads. in the papers - and so on....that is the organisation of Cardiff Christadelphians.'
Perhaps if the CDs weren't so paranoid about the cult label they wouldn't contradict themselves so readily! Palmer accedes that:
'Now we are in fellowship with other Christadelphians in Swansea, Aberdare, Newport, Birmingham, Montreal, Adelaide, Addis Ababa....wherever. And we have an agreement between churches that we believe the same things....written down in a statement of faith...of what we believe the Bible says....the Baptists do exactly the same. We have no paid ministry, we have no pastors, ministers, bishops, archbishops, or Popes. I'm standing here today because I've been asked to. God-willing, on Sunday night, it will be somebody else giving a talk - and so on.'
If they weren't so desperate to avoid the labels they might find the use of serving roles - such as pastor, elder, bishop, overseer, and deacon - to be useful as well as perfectly Scriptural! It is a pity that the CDs cannot see that summarising 'what we believe the Bible says' in such a way is perfectly acceptable in order to summarize doctrines such as the Trinity - which they don't believe and say isn't in the Bible - or 'God-manifestation' which they believe in, although it isn't in the Bible! When it comes to considering truth the CDs logic often flies out of the window. Why is this? Is there really some lack of control here? By resorting to emotionalism again:
'Now I want you to realise that. Because I think that anyone who thinks that we are an organisation that is controlled in some sinister way doesn't know what they are talking about...." Palmer demonstrated again this paranoia. We've already dealt with the 'sinister' aspect and, although Christadelphianism denies the work of the devil and demons, we are content to let the Biblical record show that 'the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons' (1 Timothy 4:1 - made clearer to CDs by Matthew 24:24-25 & Acts 20:29-30).
Having dealt with their charitable work - 'homes for the elderly and a hospital in Birmingham'- (for all - or exclusively for CDs?) - Palmer then switched his attack back to Christendom:
'We, in fact, avoid a paid ministry for the very dangers that people have identified - because it's not only cult leaders - is it - who abuse their position of authority. We know ministers, we've met them, especially in Africa, who've said they do not believe the things they preach, but it's their job. And we don't want ever to be in that position - ever to be compromised - that we have to say what people expect us to say because we've been paid. We're a lay organisation...if organisation you can call it.'
Well, we will call it an organisation Stephen - since you have! This approach is another failure - every religion has charlatans who need weeding out and they can never prove the efficacy of the truth. Would a CD discount the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ because he supped with a liar and thief who participated in His murder by taking 30 pieces of silver! ( Mt 26:15; 27:3-9) Clearly not! The support of the Christian ministry is such a clear Scriptural principal that we hardly wish to spend time emphasising it. The interested reader can find Paul thanking believers for their giving, but working at his trade when believers showed such poor faith that they were resentful (Acts 18:3; Philippians 4:15-16; 2 Cor 11:9; 2 Cor 12:13-16; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8). What a pity that the CDs live in such fear that they align themselves with the weakest elements of the New Testament and have to neglect Scriptural teachings they claim to believe in!
Finally Palmer dealt with part of the truth about the CDs:
'Some people say, 'You're not being quite straight with us here....you are actually followers of one man called John Thomas....Let me say what I think of John Thomas - I think he was a remarkable man, who I have the highest admiration for. I think his writings are exceptional and I think that he played a major part in reviving interest in the simple truths of the Bible in the last century.'
How 'exceptional'? More than all disciples of Christ for the previous 2,000 years, Stephen? You failed to rebuff our claim that Thomas remains the originator of the CD faith and that you have followed his teachings since their inception by him. Although you failed to be as open and honest as H.P. Mansfield (1969) and J.W. Thirtle (1881) you have said enough. We will reserve our 'highest admiration' for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Palmer then claimed that:
'In the American Civil War the Christadelphians didn't have a name. Because we are conscientious objectors we do not fight because we believe that the commandments of Christ prohibit us from doing that....he coined the name Christadelphian to distinguish a group which could seek conscientious objection from involvement in the American Civil War. How could brethren shoot brethren? And he coined the name Christadelphian - and it might sound strange in some peoples ears which is one reason why they say well, they're a cult - because we haven't heard that name before. But all it means is 'brethren in Christ'. Christa - Christ, adelphos - brethren. And John Thomas took that name - he didn't pluck it out of the air - it's quite a Scriptural phrase, isn't it? 'Wherefore He is not ashamed to call them, brethren' - Hebrews Chapter 2 tells us. When Paul writes to the Colossians, he writes to ' the brethren in Christ'. That's all that expression Christadelphian means. And it speaks the truth.'
Notice the cunning use of association. Whatever happened to Thomas' first choice of name for his new group: The Royal Association of Believers in New York - didn't it sound conscientious or Christian enough? We need to ask why founder Thomas could not be content with the term the early believers used - that it, Christian (Acts 11:26). When you remain insular - another characteristic of a cult - you get stuck in the false ideas mooted here. Jesus never forbade believers from fighting for a just cause or told his disciples to go defenceless. Or do the CDs believe that He instructed His disciples to take swords for sharpening pencils! (Luke 22:36). Careful reading of Judges 19-21 is recommended for those who may tend to agree with the conscientious objections of CDs and Jehovah's Witnesses (hereafter abbreviated to JWs). The Memorial Hall committee, who have allowed these two groups to use the building and thus insult the memory of those who fell to keep this country free from tyranny and to enable them to have the freedom to perpetuate their false beliefs, would also do well to take note.
But Palmer's real aim is to introduce the definition of CD by throwing in a couple of Bible quotations, using the term 'brethren' (Gk. adelphoi), and then concluding - 'it's quite a Scriptural phrase, isn't it?' Well, no, it isn't actually, Stephen - it isn't found in Scripture at all. (Later, note his views on the word 'Trinity' which is not found in the Bible). But it achieves its aim in many ways. Just as 'Christian Science' causes people to think of the two separate parts and conclude that, if it is Christian and Scientific, it surely can't be bad. Before they know it they're involved in a cult that is neither Christian or Science - but is in fact an amalgamation of Gnosticism and pantheism, and sounds like a branch of Buddhism using Christian terminology - but Jesus Christ isn't found in it at all for the anti-Christ is in His place! Palmer would do well to read 'Kingdom of the Cults' having gone out of his way to quote from it. Palmer made the assertion that: 'CD might sound strange in some peoples ears which is one reason why they say well, they're a cult - because we haven't heard that name before....". Where did you read this Stephen - it wasn't in Direction - weren't you going to answer the charges of the tract? Perhaps you really have taken your name from an appropriate Scriptural Greek word - pseudadelphos: 'false brethren'?
Now Palmer turned again to history - or at least the CDs version of history as they would like it to be:
'One of our members - a Professor in the University of West Indies - has done a lot of research on the history of so-called minority religious groups. And what is quite clear....is the history of 'the brethren' through the centuries. They were sometimes called Anabaptists, sometimes the Waldensians, sometimes the Hussites - and so on. Throughout European history groups of people - strong-minded people - who read the Bible, following the Reformation when the Bible was opened up said, ' Hey, the Bible doesn't teach what that church teaches!' And these people risked their lives for saying so - like Rawlins White in Cardiff. We don't consider ourselves as followers of John Thomas, as the Quakers might consider themselves followers of William Penn, or as Calvinists are followers of Calvin, or the Lutherans followers of Luther, or the Catholics the followers of the Pope. We don't look to intermediaries in that way but would look as a tradition, if you like, of 'brethren,' dissidents, 'Yes' - I quite agree, dissidents. Awkward people - who are pretty good at arguing from the Bible. But who won't be brow-beaten by threats, who have a tradition of protesting in a peaceful way through the logic of reason from the Word of God - which can be traced way back - at least to the 13th century. And we believe right back to the New Testament....to believe what the apostles taught. And we're quite happy, delighted in fact, to engage in discussion with anybody who is willing to sit down with us - even to debate from a platform if you like - what the Bible teaches and compare it with what the churches teach.'
Referring to the history of minority groups such as the Anabaptists, Waldensians, Hutterites and those who have used the term 'brethren' for centuries, will never make them CDs, will it? Neither will admitting that you are indeed 'dissidents' and 'awkward people.' You have brought forward absolutely zero evidence to prove your claim that you 'can be traced way back - at least to the 13th century. And we believe right back to the New Testament....to believe what the apostles taught.' Where is the evidence - it is as strong as your appeal for Rawlins White - which is why you said 'at least' and then 'we believe.' Anyone researching the doctrines of these people will not find evidence to support the CD cause - even picking out the bits which you might feel more comfortable with will not gloss over the cracks. We're sure, for example, that Palmer would like to embrace the pacifistic Anabaptists while shunning the decidedly violent Anabaptists. What of their mysticism - which stretched to the point of regarding it as impossible that anything belonging to this natural creation, such as the human language in which the word of God is brought to man, or even the written Word, could in any way be instrumental in communicating the new life to sinners! Other teachings of theirs that CDs would reject would be their virtual setting aside of the Word of God as a means of grace - instead they stressed what they called the internal word, the 'inner light,' and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To them the external word was the 'letter that killeth' while the internal word was spirit and life! In contrast the CDs are rationalistic partakers of the Pelagian heresy which entirely denies the necessity of an internal operation of the Holy Spirit unto salvation. This is the view of Roberts:
"There is no manifestation of the Spirit in these days...the power of continuing the manifestation doubtless died with the apostles" (R. Roberts, "Christendom Astray", p 86; 148). "It should not be surprising to find that the Holy Spirit is not given to men today" (The Holy Spirit, Dawn Fellowship, p-13)
They do not therefore believe that people are converted to Christ as they respond to the Holy Spirit's work within them. Take away the Spirit that guides into all truth (John 16v13) and you are helpless. Everyone at this meeting should ask themselves - how can the CDs have any confidence in their beliefs when they rely on the interpretations of individuals and not in the divine leading of God the Holy Spirit?
Another Anabaptist teaching that CDs are welcome to is their denial of infant baptism and belief that children had no standing in the church. Among the 'Doctrines to be rejected' by CDs are: 'That baby sprinkling is a doctrine of Scripture; That "heathens," idiots, pagans, and very young children will be saved.' Notice the lack of grace in these statements What happened to the degree of sanctification spoken of in 1 Cor. 7:13-16? Do you want to belong to a cult that employs the harsh doctrines akin to the Romish error of 'Limbus Infantum' - the supposed abode of all unbaptised children; they remain there without any hope of deliverance, suffering no positive punishment but forever excluded from the blessings of heaven. How different this is from the kingdom Jesus ushered in when he said: "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt. 19:14; cf. Acts 2:39).
And what would Palmer like to do with all the false prophecies of those he would claim as ancestors? Remember, one false prophecy and you are to reject the prophet and his teachings (Deut. 18:18-22). The CDs have failed to prove that they are not latter-day heretics and cultists gathered around the false doctrines of one man who has spawned followers who propagate the same errors. We look forward to the evidence that you 'are pretty good at arguing from the Bible' - we have seen only an absence of sticking to the literal truth of the Bible. Instead, CDs are fond of doing what they accuse others of - reading into the Bible the doctrines they wish to support and quoting Scriptures that seem to support their cause while ignoring those that refute them.
Anyone who was not at this meeting may think Direction is being more than a little harsh - read on. Palmer introduced the idea of manipulation by leaders by thought control or other devices by quoting conditions for thought control from the works of Singer and Lifton. Direction never accused CDs of treating converts in this way:
'taking them away from their normal environment, cut them off from family or contacts....normal communication.....so that they are unaware of what's happening. We don't work you up with singing and beats and rhythms....we don't have a team of people on the platform controlling the lighting as they do (his emphasis) in many evangelical campaigns - because we have members who have worked on the lighting teams and know what goes on behind the stage...we don't manipulate. Some people...students...come into our hall in Museum place and they come in out of curiosity....they say, 'It's a bit dark here, not lively enough, there's not enough music. What they do hear is the Word of God being spoken about from the platform....and it's not what they normally associate with a sort of church service. So, look, I've done my best to be as straightforward about the cults as possible - I've gone in some detail into the search. There is nothing special about our organisation - just about the Word of God. We believe everything that is in the Bible and only what is in the Bible.'
Do CDs really believe that getting people worked up with 'singing....beats and rhythms' is used by orthodox Christians in controlling or manipulating by thought control - this was the inference? Anyone who has witnessed their meetings might well ask the same questions the students ask! What happened to the ecstatic joy that a believer is supposed to know:
1 Ki 1:40 - And all the people went up after him, and the people were playing on flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that THE EARTH SHOOK AT THEIR NOISE;
1 Ch 15:16 - Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, LOUD SOUNDING CYMBALS TO RAISE SOUNDS OF JOY;
2 Ch 30:21 - And the sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with LOUD INSTRUMENTS to the LORD;
Ezr 3:13 - so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a LOUD SHOUT, and the sound was heard far away;
Ne 8:10 - for the joy of the LORD is your strength;
Rom 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit;
Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We would truly rejoice to see CDs dancing as David danced before the Lord (2 Sam 6:16), but they would need to be filled with the Spirit of the Lord for this to happen, and their theology prevents this from ever happening! If CDs believed in Satan & demons we might find they were as concerned as Direction about the infiltration of these things through popular music - but the evidence does not show huge numbers of people being eternally lost through hearing 'beats & rhythms' in evangelical campaigns. Perhaps the case is as strong as Paul's appeal to the Corinthian partakers of food sacrificed to idols? (1Cor 8:1-13; 1 Cor 9:13; 1Cor 10:3-28). What is evil - the food or sacrificing it to demonic gods; is it 'beats and rhythms' that are evil or the glorification of Satan and demons using this kind of music? If the singing and music is dedicated to praising God is it then sanctified no matter what the origins of the rhythms and beats - or are some forms of music and instruments forbidden for the worship of God? If not - are the CDs certain that they are not using some forms of worship that have been used in some evil circumstance somewhere in history? Can any of us ever be certain that a beat or rhythm we use in worship hasn't been used somewhere in history to worship false gods (Satan & demons)? Is it right to be so paranoid about these things - or only if you're a CD? For Palmer to admit that CDs have assisted with the light shows at some evangelical crusades makes a number of points - all derogatory to the CD cause. It is difficult to prove that even flashing lights in themselves cause or assist in mind control - again no facts were supplied to support the implied case - although there is some evidence that they can trigger migraines and epileptic fits. But the fact that CDs have assisted in such things makes them partakers of the criticism - if such things have harmful effect as implied. In the light of the next comment by Palmer a careful study of the use of instruments, as detailed in Psalm 150, might be in order.
Palmer quoted Psalm 37:9-11 & Acts 3:19-21 and concluded: 'The earth is the place of eternal reward. The restitution of all things which God had spoken from the mouth of all his holy prophets....we are often accused of being an Old Testament organisation - well, so were the apostles....and so was the Lord Jesus Christ.' Since the major cult of Jehovah's Witnesses also believes this false doctrine we will be looking at this more closely in the near future. A look at the context of Psalm 37 makes it clear that the Psalm is not referring to a distant future time when God will remove all wicked people and allow the good to live on a paradise earth. Rather, the psalmist was speaking of something that people in his own lifetime (and the following generations) would experience. Evil people in his time would be cut off; righteous people in his time would experience blessing in the promised land. There is a huge difference between believing the Old Testament still speaks to us and believing, as the CDs do, that every promise of an eternal future is found there - and then only by using their interpretation. Jesus & the apostles believed the Old Testament as the Word of God & quoted it to support all their teachings - but Jesus brought the New Covenant which remains a mystery to the CDs who want us to take a step backward into a kind of shrouded Judaism:
" 'Salvation is of the Jews' nationally and individually. It is important then to understand this element of the truth of God, that by our enlightenment, we may be enabled to put off Gentilism and become related to a higher polity - even the commonwealth of Israel - in which, being 'Abraham's seed,' we shall be 'heirs according to the promise.' " (R. Roberts, "Christendom Astray", concluding words of fourteenth lecture).
Here the believer is exhorted to put off Gentilism and put on Judaism. In the Scriptures however the Christian believer is not connected religiously with either, but by believing in the grace of God he becomes part of the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32; Ephesians 2:11-16). And yet CDs today remain, with Roberts, firmly rooted in the Old Testament. F. W. Grant in his book, "Facts and Theories As To A Future State' writes of R. Roberts' teaching:
"Thus for his own views, out of fifty-six passages produced, nine belong to the New Testament, and forty seven to the Old. Whilst out of passages which he thinks might be adduced as against his views (though scanty in number) nine out of ten are from the New Testament..." (page 124).
Speaking of the movement as a whole, Grant writes:
"They look at death as it existed before Christ had for the believer abolished it. They look at life there where as yet it had not been 'brought to light.' No wonder if they stumble in the darkness they have chosen" (page 125).